The Case of the Missing Quest Items: Part Three
We were all up early the next morning, and I was surprised to see Rika join us for a breakfast of sausage omelette and coffee. The Ruki looked as if she hadn't gotten much sleep the previous night, though I knew from experience that she would be up for a long day's work as long as she consumed enough of her amazing coffee.
"What's the plan, Rika?" I asked as the Ruki poured herself a cup of coffee.
Rika gulped down the coffee, poured herself another cup, then said, "I have obtained something from... an associate, which will allow us to find out where that tunnel leads. We should then be able to find out if, in fact, the Meepits took the items, and if they did, we can formulate a plan for getting the items back."
We all ate in silence for a while, pondering the unspoken question of what to do if Rika's plan didn't pan out. Remembering our conversation with the the Space Faerie yesterday, none of us asked Rika about her "associate". Just as I was finishing my omelette, an odd-looking little robot wandered out of Rika's workshop and started walking around the room. Wondering what I was looking at, Rika turned, saw the little robot, and said, "Come here, Rory, and meet my friends."
The robot made its way over to Rika's chair, and she picked it up and set it on the table. "Everyone, meet Rory the N-4 Info Retrieval Bot. He's going to help us find out where the tunnel leads. Rory, meet 00Kiko, Shoya, and Mist."
The robot turned to each of us as Rika introduced us, then said in a mechanical voice, "Hello."
"Hello," Shoya, Mist and I replied as Rika started wolfing down her share of omelette. Rory settled down next to Rika's plate, and the four of us finished our breakfast with minimal conversation.
When we were done, Shoya took the dishes over to the sink, and Mist asked Rika, "So, how exactly were you able to afford Rory?"
Rika sighed and said, "I didn't buy him--I'm borrowing him from a friend." The pleading look in her eyes asked us not to question her about this mysterious "friend", who was probably the "associate" she'd mentioned earlier.
Shoya walked over with our gear and said, "Shall we be off?"
I donned my backpack, Rika picked up Rory, and we headed back to the Faerie Queen's palace. It was still fairly early in the morning, so the streets were almost empty, and we made good time on our way to the palace. Once there, however, we realized we didn't know where exactly we needed to go, or how we were going to explain our presence to the guards at the gates. Luckily, just outside the gates we ran into the Battle Faerie, who remembered us from the day before. She grudgingly got us past the guards, and gave us directions on how to get to the Hidden Tower.
Hoping the Faerie Queen was an early riser, we followed the Battle Faerie's directions and soon found ourselves climbing the staircase to the Hidden Tower shop. We glanced inside, and as the store appeared empty we went in. As we entered we heard a familiar voice say, "I'll be there in just a minute! Don't touch anything!" A few seconds later a portion of the back wall dissolved and Queen Fyora stepped into the room. The wall rematerialized behind her as she scanned the room. When she saw us she said, "Ah, Kiko & Co. You're here rather early. Did you need something?"
We bowed and I said, "Good morning, Your Majesty. We would like to get into the storage room again, if you don't mind. Rika has a way of finding out where that tunnel we told you about leads."
"Do you need me to be present for what you are going to do?" she asked.
"No, Your Majesty," I replied. "We just need you to let us into the room."
Queen Fyora drummed her fingers on the top of her desk for a bit, then said, "I can't just lend you my key to the storage room, not after I made such a point yesterday of making sure none of the other faeries had lent their keys to anyone, and I can't leave this shop unattended." She stood there for a bit, drumming her fingers on the desk, then said, "I know! I'll see if Lisle is awake yet--she has a key, so she can take you to the storage room." Sitting down at her desk, she added, "If anyone comes in, pretend you're interested in the merchandise."
As we wandered around the shop and gazed longingly at the really expensive items for sale, Queen Fyora took out a sheet of lavender colored paper and a quill pen that looked like it was made from a feather from a faerie Lenny. She dipped the quill in an ink bottle, then scribbled a note to the air faerie. When she finished writing she folded up the paper, sealed it with some sealing wax and an engraved seal. and tossed it up in the air, where it vanished. "Neomail, faerie style," she said.
She might have said something else, but at that moment a blue Cybunny walked in, obviously intending to buy something. I wandered over to Mist and Shoya, who were standing by the paint brushes, and joined in their discussion. Rika, still holding Rory, was pretending to examine the display of Battledome weapons while keeping on eye on the door. As the Cybunny was paying for her Faerie Queen Doll I saw a movement in the doorway, and turned to see Lisle, the air faerie we had interviewed yesterday, walk past the door. After the Cybunny left, Lisle entered the room and walked quickly towards Queen Fyora's desk, and the four of us followed.
Queen Fyora stood up and greeted Lisle, saying, "Good morning, dear. I'd like you to take 00Kiko and her team down to the storage room and let them in--the spell on the door is still set up to allow them out again without a key, so you don't have to stay there with them. After that, I won't need you up here until after lunch; the Council is meeting today, so I'm afraid you'll be up here all afternoon. Does that suit you?"
Lisle smiled and replied, "Of course, Fyora." She bobbed a small curtsy and led us out the door.
We followed Lisle down to the storage room, and watched as she dismissed the illusion spell that hid the door and opened the lock. She held the door open for us, then followed us inside and closed the door. Clearing her throat nervously, she asked, "Have you made any progress so far? Do you know who took the items?"
We glanced at each other, and Shoya replied, "Lady Lisle, we can't really discuss this case with you at the moment. Why do you ask?"
Lisle started rubbing her hands together nervously and said, "I... I should probably warn you that there is a small faction, mostly consisting of dark faeries, who want to remove Fyora from the throne. They blame that whole turned-to-stone thing on her, saying that Fyora should have seen that Xandra was corrupt and taken steps to neutralize her. The Faerie Council is meeting today, and I fear the anti-Fyora faction might use this theft as an argument to gain more support. I'm not sure if they intend to bring this up in today's council session, but it's possible. Please, please tell me you'll find out who did this soon!"
We stared at her in silence for a bit, trying to wrap our minds around what Lisle had just told us. Finally, Mist said, "Lady Lisle, we are working as fast as we can, and what you just said will put an extra urgency in our proceedings. However, we must also be thorough in our investigation, in order to make a solid case against the criminal. I promise you, we are doing all we can to catch this thief."
"Thank you," she said almost tearfully, then fled out of the room.
"How much of that can we trust?" I mused.
"She could be lying, trying to throw us off her trail or trying to shield Queen Fyora," Shoya said, "or she could be telling the truth. In any case, let's hope Rika's plan yields some results."
We walked over to the section of the wall containing the end of the tunnel, and Mist removed the loose stone. Rika set Rory down, then dug through my backpack and brought out some device she must have stashed in there last night. This particular device was about the size of a large book, and appeared to consist mostly of a screen surrounded by a few buttons, with a long antenna sticking out of one end. Rika turned the device on, then pushed a button on Rory's back. The screen now showed a section of wall, presumably the wall that Rory was currently facing. Rika pushed another button on the control pad, and a blinking light appeared in the bottom left corner of the screen.
Rika turned to us and said, "This device is a control pad for Rory, and it also allows us to see whatever he sees. This blinking light in the corner means that I have activated the location sensor, which will allow us to find Rory. I can also use these buttons on the control pad to send Rory instructions if need be. My plan is to have Rory follow the tunnel to its end, while we watch on the control pad. When he gets to the end of the tunnel, I can tell him to come back if there's nothing of interest there, or we can formulate some plan for retrieving him and the criminal and items."
"Sounds good. Do we have to stay here the entire time, or can we go back to HQ?" I said.
"Distance doesn't affect the operation of the control pad, so we should be able to go back to HQ once Rory's in the tunnel."
"Okay, then I say you need to send Rory on his way, then we can put that brick back in the end of the tunnel so that no one knows anything's going on. Then we should head back to HQ and keep track of Rory with that control pad; I'd rather not stay here and have to explain what we're doing to the faeries."
"Good idea," Rika said. Turning to Shoya, she asked, "Could you please cast that invisibility spell you know on Rory? I will be in a lot of trouble if anything happens to him."
Shoya nodded, then placed her hands on Rory's back and muttered the spell. When she was done we couldn't see Rory, though we knew roughly were he was by the view on the control pad.
"The spell will wear off in about four or five hours," Shoya said as she took her hands off Rory's back.
Rika fiddled with the buttons on the control pad, and we saw the image on the screen change as Rory entered the tunnel. After two minutes Rika nodded to Mist, who replaced the brick in the wall. Evidently, Rory had some way of lighting his path, as we could still see the inside of the tunnel on the screen. Rika carefully placed the control panel in my backpack, and we left the storage room. In the entrance to the Hidden Tower we saw the Space Faerie, who kindly escorted us out of the palace.
Once we were back at HQ Rika took the control pad from my backpack and placed it in the center of the table, then made a pot of coffee as we watched the screen. It was still showing a view of the inside of the tunnel, though we could tell that Rory was still moving. Throughout the rest of the morning we made sure that at least one of us was watching the view on the control pad at all times. Finally, just after lunch, Rika, who was watching the control pad's screen, said, "I think he's just about to the end of the tunnel."
We all rushed over to the table to see the view on the screen. At first all we saw was an increase in the light in the tunnel. Rika pushed a button on the control pad, and Rory turned off his light. We noticed that the tunnel walls now seemed to be made out of dark gray stone instead of dirt. The light at the end of the tunnel brightened, and before we knew it Rory was out of the tunnel. Rika pressed some more buttons, and Rory stopped walking and looked around, showing us where the tunnel ended.
"No way!" Shoya exclaimed.
"There must be some mistake!" I insisted.
"It can't be!" Mist whispered.
"It is," Rika stated, a bit of fear creeping into her voice.
To be continued...